This week our collection features five items that were all stamped inside of a drawer "Orchard and Wilhelm Since 1893 Omaha".
Orchard and Wilhelm stamp
At first glance, one could assume that this is a makers' mark, identifying where the pieces were manufactured. However, most of the pieces also have a second mark. One set is marked Mainline by Hooker and the credenza is marked Broyhill Premier. So this had to mean that Orchard and Wilhelm was a store in Omaha, where these pieces were purchased.
This dresser in this week's collection has the Orchard and Wilhelm stamp and the Mainline by Hooker makers' mark
Location of Orchard & Wilhelm Co.
Our first question was, where was Orchard and Wilhelm located? Our internet sleuthing produced an image of the store front on South 16th St across from the Orpheum Theatre, which still stands. The Omaha Public Power District HQ (OPPD) now stands in the former store location.
Image from myomahaobsession.com (recommended reading for Omaha history)
We also found this newspaper ad with the address of Orchard and Wilhelm Co listed as 414 - 416 - 418 South 16th Street.
Image from Chronicling America
When Did Orchard and Wilhelm Close?
The second question we had was, when did Orchard and Wilhelm go out of business? Adam Fletcher Sasse of North Omaha History wrote a piece about a biscuit plant in North Omaha that later was purchased by Orchard and Wilhem as a warehouse. (By the way, if you haven't checked out North Omaha History and Adam's books on North Omaha, you definitely should. He has done a ton of research and offers a wealth of information on North Omaha's historic neighborhoods, businesses and notable individuals in Omaha's history. We are big fans of his website!)
In the comment section of Mr. Fletcher Sasse's post a commenter named John Peterson wrote that the store closed in 1971. According to Mr. Peterson, the store was purchased by a Carl Renstrom in 1966 and he later sold the store to Biedermans "a chain of furniture stores in the St Louis area". Mr. Peterson says that "Biedermans closed the store on December 31, 1971 and the Biederman chain went out of business in 1974".
Biedermans may not have had the same quality and customer care that Orchard and Wilhelm was known for. Mr. Peterson says, "When I worked there during a couple of summers during the late 60s I remember that employees were concerned that Biedermans did not have the same quality furniture and did not offer the same customer friendly perks, like including a light bulb when lamps were sold so the customer did not have to buy a bulb."
Biedermans Store photograph from South East Missourian
We weren't able to uncover much more about Orchard and Wilhem Co. The company was in business in Omaha from 1893 until Biedermans closed it down in 1971. That is a long run! We're glad they stamped their furniture so that we could find out about where Omahans and those in the surrounding area bought their furniture in the era when mid century modern furniture was new!
If you know more info about Orchard and Wilhelm Co, please share in the comments!